Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2017

Archive for the category “Music”

“Do You Love me?” – Reblog from The Immortal Jukebox

Today we offer a reblog from “The Immortal Jukebox” about one of the early Motown Singing groups: The Contours and their hit, “Do You Love Me?”

Everybody dance!

The Contours : Do You Love Me (Motown – The Empire lifts off!)

 

 

‘ You broke my heart ’cause I couldn’t dance
You didn’t even want me around
And now I’m back to let you know
I can really shake ’em down!’ (Berry Gordy)

Roma uno die non est condita.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

It takes time to found a mighty Empire that will conquer all the known world.

So, from the founding of Rome (let’s say 753BC) to the final defeat of Carthage it was all of 600 years.

It is therefore somewhat remarkable it took Berry Gordy less than a decade from the founding of Motown in 1959 to establish an Empire that colonised the hearts and souls of music fans from Addis Abbaba to Zanzibar and Zagreb!

An $800 loan from his family became a multi, multi million dollar record company which would record songs that will last as long as we have Spirits that need lifting, hearts that need stirring (or consolation) and hips that just gotta move.

First, get yourself a base that you own.

Let’s show our ambition and call this base, ‘Hitsville USA’.

A Studio come Clubhouse where your singers and musicians can find competition and camaraderie 24 hours a day (acording to legend the local beat cop thought 2648 West Grand Drive Boulevard must be an all hours drinking den given the numbers of shady looking characters turning up at all hours of the day and night).

Next get yourself a live and play in the Basement group of musicians with Jazz chops who can fashion a wholly new sound – which is not jazz, not old school R&B, Blues or Rock n’ Roll.

Let’s call them The Funk Brothers and let’s have one of them, James Jamerson on Bass, be a fully fledged genius who will add grace and depth to every recording he ever plays on.

Let’s have a slogan calling that sound, ‘The Sound of Young America’ and let’s make so many great records that the slogan will became an every day reality on the airwaves and the charts.

And, we don’t mean, in still highly segregated America, the Black Music Charts .

No, no, no.

We mean the Pop Music charts.

Where the real money is to be made.

Open for Business and cast a cool appraising eye on all the would be stars who beat a path to your door.

This kid Smokey Robinson’s a Keeper – he’s got a notebook with hundreds of songs and he can sing ’em like a bird and work the Recording Desk too!

Not that I can’t write and produce myself.

You ever heard, ‘Reet Petite’ or, ‘Lonely Teardrops’?

Big Hits but Berry didn’t get the money!

Not going to happen again!

So, in 1960, New Frontier!, we get our first hit.

Barrett Strong with, ‘Money’ (bunch of English guys in Hamburg called The Beatles will learn a lot playing that one!).

Then Smokey comes up with, ‘Shop Around’ and by the end of the year we got a Million Seller!

Here comes 1961 and we get ourselves our first Pop Number One!

The Marvellettes, ‘Please Mr Postman’.

I got my eyes and ears on that Brian Holland – there’s a lot more hits where that came from!

Early ’62 I figure we need to find a song like, ‘Twist and Shout’ that will have all the White Kids, all the Black Kids and everybody who ain’t tied to a chair out on the floor and running down to the record store to lay down their cash.

Let’s call it, ‘Do You Love Me’.

I thought it might suit The Temptations but maybe they just sing too well for this one (I got big plans for them later).

So, what about The Contours?

 

Probably the best dancers of anyone who ever came through these doors!

Come to think of it Billy Gordon got a, ‘Wake the Dead and get ’em up Dancin” Voice if I ever heard one!

Next time they come through I’m gonna sit down at the piano and teach them the song one evening and record it the next day.

Gonna tell James to drive this one like a runaway train.

None of his fancy jazz licks – nail that backbeat to the Basement floor!

Of course, when Benny Benjamin is behind the Drums, the record is going to sound immense.

Immense.

Maybe I’ll start with a spoken intro and then let The Funk Brothers explode and tell Billy I don’t want him to be able to sing this song a second time ’cause I want him to tear his throats to shreds the first time!

Ok – let’s go!

Now, if that ain’t shaking ’em down I don’t know what is!

The Funk Brothers never let up and Billy Gordon’s lead vocal comes at you like a tidal wave.

Hubert Johnson, Billy Higgs, Joe Billingslea and Sylvester Potts make up a chorus that has an irresitble goofball charm. The trilling guitar comes from Huey Davis.

When I’ve managed to master some skill which has previously eluded me (and there’s a lot of them!) I just can’t stop myself singing, ‘I’ m back and I can really shake ’em down – Watch me now!’.

I love the corny spoken introduction, the false ending, the references to the Mashed Potato and The Twist and the bullfrog, ‘Um, Bom, Bom, Bom, brrrmm’ backing vocals.

Of course Berry got his hit!

Top 5 in every Chart and well over a Million copies sold.

They say it was the fastest selling single in the history of Motown.

Malheureusement, it was the pinnacle of The Contours career though they did make a handful of other excellent recordings.

They were simply too low down in the pecking order of Motown Vocal Groups.

And, when you consider they were up against the likes of The Four Tops and The Tempatations that is hardly to be wondered at.

There’s almost always been a version of the group out there driving a crowd crazy with, ‘Do You Love Me’.

And, by some mysterious alignment of the heavens, in 1987 the song gained a wholly unexpected new lease of life through being featured in the world wide hit film. ‘Dirty Dancing’ (even if they did, disgracefully, chop off the ending!).

One of the versions of The Contours got to go on a world tour and enjoy the big time once again.

Not so, for poor Billy Gordon.

For Billy died in poverty after spending time in prison (bizarrely with one time colleague Joe Billingslea being a Corrections Officer in the Prison!).

So it goes. So it goes.

Yet, every day someone, somewhere, has their life lit up by hearing Billy intone:

You broke my heart ’cause I couldn’t dance
You didn’t even want me around
And now I’m back to let you know
I can really shake ’em down!

And then, if they’ve got any blood in their veins they’ll go stone crazy for the next two and a half minutes.

Watch me Now!

Dedicated to :

Billy Gordon (RIP)

Sylvester Potts (RIP)

Hubert Johnson (RIP)

Huey Davis (RIP)

James Jamerson (RIP)

Benny Benjamin (RIP)

Joe Billingslea

Billy Hoggs

Notes:

Britain’s Ace Records has two excellent complications documenting The Contours recorded legacy.

Tracks to look out for –

‘First I Look at the Purse’

‘Whole Lotta Woman’

‘Shake Sherry’

‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’

The Contours : Do You Love Me (Motown – The Empire lifts off!)

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I Heard What You Said

I WISH TO MAKE A CONFESSION. I am an eavesdropper. I may look like I’m totally focused on the book in front of me or this blank page as I write, but I also have an ear turned to the world around me. I listen in on what other people are saying and I hear some incredibly inane interesting things sometimes.

Listening in is how I am able to do blog posts like that one from last week about the Real Estate mavens at the next table. I should be ashamed, but I’m not. I’m a “Listening Tom.”

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “When Sylvie Sang” from February 2015

Fiction Saturday Encore – from February 2015

When Sylvie Sang

Microphone LargeThis story was created as a performance piece. I presented it a number of times over the years.

It is longer than my usual posts.  

I hope you enjoy it.

 

WHEN SYLVIE SANG the men at the bar would stop and turn on their stools to listen.  The bartender would dry his hands, move to the end of the bar and light up a cigarette.  The waitresses would huddle by the wall and hug their trays.  And the drunken man who cried softly to himself in the corner by the door would lift his eyes and rub his hands together underneath an invisible spigot.

When Sylvie sang, the room was locked in glass and still – as still as a new widow hearing that first long silence. 

In the spotlight the smoke was frozen.

“When Sunny gets blue, her eyes get gray and cloudy.”

When Sylvie sang she never really heard the music or thought about the words.  She was far away in a small town by a riverbank, holding onto someone she loved.  She only heard his voice, felt his heat, and the nightclub disappeared.

When Sylvie sang she wasn’t there and the people she sang for knew that because she took them with her.

“What would they say if we up and ran away from the roaring crowd?”

But the song always has to end and when the music stopped the men at the bar would turn again and start to laugh and talk.  The waitresses would rush to cover their thirsty stations and the drunken man would close his eyes again and descend inside himself.  Sylvie would go out into the alley and smoke until the next set called her back.

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Throwback Thursday from July 2016 – One Man’s Treasure…

Throwback Thursday from July 2016

One Man’s Treasure…

sale4THE SUN IS SHINING. THE SKY IS BLUE. THE SIGNS ARE ON EVERY POLE.

The other morning while driving the short distance to St. Arbucks I saw four large signs tacked to poles and trees.

“Huge Rummage Sale Today!”

A person can’t have enough rummage I always say…or maybe it was somebody else. I don’t sale9remember.

I looked for an actual definition of “Rummage” and this is what I found”

“To search thoroughly or actively through (a place, receptacle, etc.), especially by moving around, turning over, or looking through contents.”

Kinda sounds like either a scavenger hunt or Spring Cleaning to me.

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School Boy Heart

I’M A FAN OF JIMMY BUFFETT. I’m not a fan to the point of calling myself a “Parrothead” which is similar to avid fans of the Grateful Dead calling themselves “Deadheads.” No, I’m not a “Parrothead.” I don’t hitchhike around the country to attend Buffett concerts and I don’t have any Buffett tattoos. I can’t afford the ticket prices and I’m too old to start siring kids named “Cheeseburger” or “Margaritaville.”

I guess I’m more of a “Parakeet” than a “Parrothead.”

I just like his music and I admire him because as a man of 70 he can still take his show on tour without the need for a fulltime medical staff.

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Rechargeable Batteries


IN JUST A FEW DAYS WE WILL BE HEADING SOUTH to attend the NACCC Annual Church Meeting. It is always a good and refreshing time. The delight of seeing old friends – I think that the best word is “Fellowship.” That means more than sitting around with a cool drink and shooting the breeze with everyone.

It is a time to exchange ideas, joys, sorrows, and hopes and plans for the future. It is also a time to recharge the batteries of faith – faith in God, Humanity, ourselves and each other. Time and tribulation can drain our batteries, but this Annual Meeting works to plug us in and reenergize us all for the year ahead.

The chores of daily life draw from our batteries much like accidentally leaving on your car headlights. You may be casting out a light to illuminate the way, but it won’t be long before you find yourself in the dark. The Annual Meeting acts like jumper cables to restart our engines and get us back on the road. Perhaps the old Willie Nelson song, “On The Road Again,” should be added to the Hymnal?

“On the road again

Just can’t wait to get on the road again.

The life I love is making music with my friends.

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

 

When I hear that it makes me think of the message of “Amazing Grace.”

“How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.’

Maybe it’s just me and my life experience, but I see so much in both those songs. Both carry a message of life renewed, rescued from days without joy and bearing the power of the music shared with friends.

Both songs sing of recharging our batteries and seeing our life with renewed energy. Whether you are singing “Amazing Grace” or “On the Road Again,” you are leaving behind the time when life was hard and are entering a time of happiness and energy.

Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia – brace yourself. We are on our way and we can get a little loud at times. There will be a fair amount of singing and laughter. There will be looking back at our past and a lot of looking to the future. There will be joy.

Throwback Thursday – from 2015 “I Felt Lucky, But I Was Wrong”

Throwback Thursday – from 2015

I Felt Lucky, But I Was Wrong

Harry1I TURNED ON THE TV THIS MORNING looking for some mild entertainment. I usually fire up the Tube as background noise while writing. My hope was for an old musical – you know, a Fred and Ginger type of film.

I didn’t find it.

Instead I was treated to a “Dirty Harry Marathon.” A bit different than I had hoped for, but…I felt lucky and it made my day. After all, a man’s got to know his limitations – at that time of day.

So – I started to work on a piece about the arrival of all the colorful birds in our backyard –Harry3 Hummingbirds, Cardinals, Finches, and even the big Redtail Hawks. I thought that a Fred and Ginger musical would help me rhapsodize about the songs I could hear drifting from the trees. That was my plan anyway, but Dirty Harry and The Dead Pool took me in a different direction.

Instead of something idyllic and suitable for reading over a glass of wine it came out reading like something from the first draft of “The Birds.” In real life I doubt that two Finches could take down a Condor and pluck him bare – and I’m not really sure that the Woodpecker in our backyard was strapped. It was perhaps the strangest 1500 words I’ve ever written.

After about three hours I just gave up on the writing part and moved from my office/kitchen Harry poptable and moved to the Rip van Winkle Memorial Chair in front of the Big Screen TV. It was now me and Inspector Callahan taking care of business. Popcorn – I needed popcorn.

A minute and a half later I was back in my chair with a hot bag of popcorn and a Diet Somethingorother.

“Did I fire six shots or only five?”

“It was six you big dummy. Harry, munch, munch, gulp, bluffed you.”

Most of those movies (I can’t call them “films.”) were shot in San Francisco while I was living there and I knew a few comedians who got small parts in one flick or the other. They played punks/thugs or ambulance drivers – not exactly roles that win Oscars. Some of them didn’t even get their name in the credits, but they did get paid which is, of course, the most important part.

I was never in any of them. My film career was limited to two “Independent films.” That means that nobody in their right mind was willing to finance the project so it was shot in pieces as they could scrape together some money. I agreed to be in the movies as a favor to the director, but only if I got paid in cash – no checks. My Momma didn’t raise no fools (a couple of whining neurotics perhaps, but no fools.).

I sat there for three more hours watching David Soul be a vigilante cop and Tyne Daly getHarry5Harry4machine gunned on Alcatraz. Luckily, they both went on to star in their own Cop Shows (“Starsky and Hutch” and “Cagney and Lacey”).  

One of these days I’ll try the Singing Bird thing again, only I’ll check the listings first to see what movies will be running. I won’t even try if they are going to be doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger Marathon. I’ll wait until I see a Busby Berkeley mob of Bleach Blonde Chorines hoofing it across the screen.

I’d even settle for an Abbott and Costello Festival. At least then I’d know who was on first.

Harry6

Yearning To Return

LAST YEAR WAS A TIME OF TRAVEL FOR US. Our seven weeks in Ireland was followed by about 10 days in Detroit, then a week in Texas. That was all squeezed into the period from early April to early July.

This year promises to be more sedate, but hardly comatose. We’ve already done one trip to Texas with another booked for Mid-July. In between there will be another 10 day sojourn, this time to Georgia near Atlanta. After that the calendar looks empty as far as travel is concerned – until the Holidays late in the year.

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Why Are My Ears Bleeding?

A FRIEND OF MINE recently posted a video on Facebook of her singing at a local bar on “Karaoke Night.” She was pretty good. She was also a bit tipsy by her own admission. Personally, I find the whole concept of Karaoke somewhat disturbing.

n105-8593-red-karaoke-night-block-1-neon-signThe entire thing that is “Karaoke” – Japanese for “Empty Orchestra,” is a fairly recent creation according to an article I read in a magazine. They date its beginning to 1970 in Osaka, Japan and a musician name Daisuke Inoue (which is Japanese for, “I can’t sing either.”)

For close to 50 years now slightly tipsy people around the world have been getting up and singing “Purple Rain” and “Let’s Get It On” in front of a room filled with other slightly tipsy people.

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Throwback Thursday from February 2016

Throwback Thursday from February 2016

What’s In A Song?

Columbus 4.gifA COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO my wife, the lovely and thought provoking, Dawn, posted a question on Facebook that made a lot of people stop and think.

She asked for, “Songs / musical pieces that bring you to tears or grab you and won’t let go.” 

That was not as easy a request as I first thought.

I am a music lover. My tastes range through just about every genre that you can think of. What I have playing in the car could make you scratch your head. I have Hard Rock, Opera, Country, Oldies, Jimmy Buffett, Broadway, Blues, Pop, Classical, Jazz, and even a Folk number or two. I usually have it going in a Random Mode, but if one song or artist hits a nerve I slide into Repeat Mode.

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Throwback Thursday from January 2015

Throwback Thursday from January 2015

Colleges Across The South Abandoned

Ramen Noodle Truck

I SAW THE FOLLOWING news item yesterday and I thought that it might have repercussions beyond just traffic problems.

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Authorities closed all southbound lanes of Interstate 95 north of Rocky Mount early Wednesday after a tractor-trailer carrying ramen noodles wrecked near N.C. Highway 4.

No other information about the wreck has been released, but boxes of noodles were spilled over a larger portion of the highway.

The state Department of Transportation said the closure could last all morning. Lanes are expected to reopen by 3:30 p.m.”

I thought that when the word of this crash got out all hell would break loose.

My brain created its own little movie of college students all over the South dropping their textbooks and i-phones and rushing to the accident scene.

The first reel, even under the opening credits, would show speeding traffic along Interstate 95, and then the Semi in question loosing traction and slamming into a bridge abutment. Next comes a slo-mo following shot of thousands of those little cellophane packets of the Ramen Noodles spreading out across all lanes like little flavored migratory butterflies.

Music comes up: Paul McCartney and Wings – reunited to sing: “Food on the run.” I can almost smell an Oscar nomination coming for the soundtrack.

The next shot cuts to hordes of skinny underclassmen and women sensing the possibility of free meals, scattering across the landscape, heading toward the Interstate. It is meals just ripe for the picking. An overturned truckload of gold bullion (not bouillon cubes) would not draw such a response.

Those Ramen Noodles don’t grow on trees, y’know. One must strike while the saucepan is hot.

In my collegiate days (Pre-Ramen) we were limited to making grilled cheese sandwiches with a steam iron or instant soups that tasted like flavored sea water. If an accident like this had happened back in the late 1960s I would have been moving with all imprudent speed to scoop up as many free and easy meals as I could stuff into my backpack.  

Most days I can look at news stories and just yawn. Things don’t vary all that much from Six O’clock News to Six O’clock News. If you want to get my attention you’ve got to do something original, or at least really dumb. Spreading several tons of Ramen Noodles across an Interstate highway gets my attention. It also makes me hungry.

Talk amongst yourselves for a while. I’m going out to get some lunch.

Terre Haute Couture

lsd1

Timothy Leary

I KNOW THAT YOU WILL FIND THIS HARD TO BELIEVE, but I am the man who put the “Haute” in “Haute Couture.” I am not the man who put the “Haute” in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “He’s the man who put the ‘Haute’ somewhere else.”)

I can make that confession about Haute Couture because I have kept a clear eye on Fashion trends over the past fifty years. I’ve watched what’s Hot in Haute.

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Name That Tune

6360256620378826951762482098_pennsyltuckyI DO LOVE BEING MILDLY SURPRISED by the actions of people. Sometimes those surprise actions are not good, but on most days they are downright delightful.

The other day I had the opportunity or the need, depending on your point of view, to be a passenger in a Customer Service Van. The driver was the kind of fellow you don’t soon forget.

My guess is that he was a native son of some place in the hills south of the old Mason-Dixon Line, or as we used to call that part of the South, “Pennsyltucky.” His accent was thick enough that you would need a chainsaw to cut it through. His language was filled with the ultra colorful language of the hills. Imagine the reality of what the old TV show “Hee-Haw” tried and failed to recreate.

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Tempus Fugit-su

time_fliesThat title is a slight (ahem) modification from the Roman writer Virgil and it survives into our modern lexicon because everyone knows that “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It also flies whether you like it or not. I know that as well as anybody, and I don’t need daily reminders, but I get them anyway.

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Hairs Looking At You, Babe

6I’VE BEEN NOTICING SOMETHING RECENTLY – Something that the rest of the world may have been aware of for some time. I can be slow on the pick-up at time.

There seems to be a fad, fashion trend, or style, for men that is news to me. I’m seeing a lot of younger men sporting really long beards. I’m not talking Abraham Lincoln beard, but something closer to the ZZ Top band or the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Under 50 years of age break out your Google).

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I’m Only Here For The Cake

wedding1I WENT TO A WEDDING LAST SATURDAY. A lovely couple, a lovely setting, and everyone wondering who in the hell I was and what I was doing there. The answer to that question was that I was the Rev. Dawn’s Roadie, Security, Driver, and – oh, yeah – her husband.

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One Man’s Treasure…

sale4THE SUN IS SHINING. THE SKY IS BLUE. THE SIGNS ARE ON EVERY POLE.

The other morning while driving the short distance to St. Arbucks I saw four large signs tacked to poles and trees.

“Huge Rummage Sale Today!”

Read more…

How Hip Can One Man Be?

Matt1I ADMIT IT – I’M GETTING OLD. No, check that – I am old, but I’m not dead. I am still mildly aware of the world around me even if the world doesn’t always return the favor.

This morning I find myself in Dearborn, Michigan. My wife, the lovely and semi-vertical somnambulist, Dawn, and I are here for an annual church convention. Because things are kicking off early, convention-wise, we are both up early slouching toward consciousness.

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I Felt Lucky, But I Was Wrong

Harry1I TURNED ON THE TV THIS MORNING looking for some mild entertainment. I usually fire up the Tube as background noise while writing. My hope was for an old musical – you know, a Fred and Ginger type of film.

I didn’t find it.

Instead I was treated to a “Dirty Harry Marathon.” A bit different than I had hoped for, but…I felt lucky and it made my day. After all, a man’s got to know his limitations – at that time of day.

Read more…

Summer Better Than Others

summer1Well, Summer is ready to go into full swing here in beautiful Terre Haute (That’s French for, “You sure can sweat.”). All the signs of Summer are blossoming.

The colleges and universities are spewing forth a fresh crop of graduates – most of whom are trading in their mortarboards and tassels for paper hats and napkin dispensers.

Read more…

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